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3 Nov 2008 : Column 119W—continued


Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the cost of maintaining the Departmental website was in 2007-08; and what the forecast cost is for maintaining websites within her responsibility in 2008-09. [231687]

Mr. Khan: We do not hold the information in the format required. The Department pays for its intranet, corporate site and info41ocal on the same contracts and is not able to break this cost down further. Across all three websites we paid £412,094 in 2007-08 for annual hosting charges, licensing, application support and maintenance.

For information relating to the relaunch of the Department's website in August 2007, I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Dhanda) on 20 May 2008, Official Report, columns 264-65W.

Costs for 2008-09 have not yet been finalised.

Departmental Procurement

Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the Answer to the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) of 6 October 2008, Official Report, column 303W, on
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departmental procurement, (1) for what purposes the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office used (a) MC Chauffeurs and (b) Carlson Wagonlit Travel; [230512]

(2) what the cost of goods and services purchased from Supplier No. (a) 405303, (b) 411763 and (c) 402446 was during the period that the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office existed as a Government department; [230513]

(3) how much was spent by the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office on the Mandarin Oriental Prague; and on what dates the expenditure was incurred; [230514]

(4) what the cost of goods and services purchased from Company Barclaycard was during the period that the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office existed as a Government department. [230519]

Mr. Khan: During the time that the Deputy Prime Minister's Office (DPMO) existed as a separate Government Department:

Supplier number Service Cost (£)

405303

To provide refreshments for official receptions

2,711.90

411763

To provide refreshments following an address to Parliament given by Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the UN

200.22

402446

For travel by officials on official business

9,041.54


The Deputy Prime Minister undertook a considerable amount of foreign travel on behalf of the then Prime Minister. He also met a considerable number of visitors from foreign governments and held a number of official receptions. Most of the costs covered by these vendors were incurred undertaking these roles, including the company Barclaycard costs. All expenditure incurred by DPMO was in line with guidelines in Managing Public Money.

Departmental Public Participation

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what estimate she has made of her Department’s proposed expenditure on citizens’ juries in the (a) present and (b) next two financial years. [230322]

Mr. Khan: The Department currently has no plans for citizens’ juries in this financial year or the next two.


3 Nov 2008 : Column 121W

Departmental Recruitment

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many civil servants in her Department were recruited through the fast stream; and what the average salary of those officials is. [229142]

Mr. Khan: The Department’s personnel records do not include information on routes of entry into the civil service for all staff. To collect this information would entail disproportionate cost.

Over the past five years, the Department has recruited, on average, a total of 15 civil servants per year through the fast stream.

Statistics on intake into the fast stream as a whole are published annually at

Copies are available in the Library of the House.

East of England Plan

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the projected cost is of the East of England Plan Review to 2031. [232256]

Mr. Khan: It is not possible to give an accurate projection of the cost of the East of England Plan Review to 2031 since so much relies on the input of partner local authorities and other agencies and organisations.

The initial stages of the review are the responsibility of the East of England Regional Assembly, which began this work in summer 2008. This work will carry through to 2009-10 when EERA will submit a draft revision of the Regional Spatial Strategy to the Secretary of State. EERA's business plan indicates that the cost of the regional planning function for 2008-09 will be £988,320, including staff costs, service level agreements with local authorities, studies, public consultation and promotion. However, this includes all the activities of the regional planning body, including monitoring and implementation of the RSS and other regional planning work, as well as the Regional Spatial Strategy review.

An estimate of the costs to the Government office of the latter stages of the process is not available at this stage.

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the cost of producing the East of England Plan published in May 2008 was. [232257]

Mr. Khan: The production of the East of England Plan is the culmination of work which started in 2001 and in its initial stages was led by the East of England Regional Assembly. The production of the plan was a broad participatory exercise and, hence, is not easily amenable to costing. For example, significant input was provided by the local authorities within the region.

The latter stages from receipt of the Panel Report involving Strategic Environmental Assessment, Habitats Regulations Assessment, consultation on the Secretary of State's Proposed Changes (and Further Proposed
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Changes) and publication of finalised plan were carried out by the Government office for the east of England. Excluding staff costs, total costs were £360,000, or just under six and a halfpence for every resident of the region.

Eco-towns

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what publications related to the eco-towns programme her Department has funded; and on what date each such document was published. [230301]

Margaret Beckett: For information on the Department’s publications I refer the hon. Member to the Department’s website, where all our publications are published electronically, including those related to eco-towns at:

Additionally, the Department has provided funding to Shelter to assist them in publishing their independent pamphlets “eco-town—facts” on potential eco-town locations. These provide information about the housing situation in and around potential eco-town locations and are available on Shelter’s website at:

Shelter inform us that their publications for the following locations were published on the following dates: Pennbury (27 July 2008); Weston Otmoor (29 July 2008), North East Elsenham (31 July 2008); Middle Quinton (18 August 2008); Rushcliffe (11 September 2008); Rossington (13 October 2008); Whitehill-Bordon (17 October 2008); and Marston Vale and St. Austell (22 October 2008).

We have also provided funding to the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) to look at the practical application of the key sustainability and development criteria for eco-towns, and as part of this they produced a scoping report and are also producing worksheets. These publications have been published on the TCPA’s website at:

Empty Dwelling Management Orders

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many Empty Property Management Orders were issued in each local authority in each year since they were introduced. [231892]

Margaret Beckett: To date, 15 Interim Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) have been approved by the Residential Property Tribunal Service (RPTS) since the legislation came into effect in April 2006. Full details are set out in the following table:


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Local authority 2007 2008

South Oxfordshire District Council

1

Norwich City Council

1

2

Peterborough City Council

1

Wychavon District Council

1

London Borough of Hounslow

1

London Borough of Lewisham

5

Swale Borough Council

1

Carlisle District Council

1

London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham

1

Total

12

3


Empty Property: Non-domestic Rates

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment has been made of the effect of the increase in empty property business rates on small self-administered pension schemes which own office space. [230690]

John Healey: There has not been a specific assessment of the impact of empty property rates on self administered pension schemes. However, an impact assessment detailing the impact of the empty property reforms was published by Communities and Local Government in May 2007 accompanying the introduction of the Rating (Empty Properties) Bill and a further assessment was laid before this House on 26 February accompanying the Non-Domestic Rating (Unoccupied Property) (England) Regulations 2008—Number: 386.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the latest estimate is of the expected yearly increase in net revenue arising from the changes to empty property business rates. [230692]

John Healey: The information requested was published in the 2007 Budget. It is estimated that the reform of relief from business rates in respect of empty property will increase net tax yields by £950 million in 2008-09 and by £900 million in 2009-10 (and around £900 million thereafter). This estimate reflects the increase in yield from rates, offset against reduced corporation tax yield (because rates are a legitimate deduction from corporation tax) and changes in other tax yields resulting from increased transactions and associated behaviour.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans her Department has to obtain information from local authorities on the effect of the new levels of empty property business rates. [230706]

John Healey: The Government have asked local authorities, as well as the VOA, to provide information provided on possible avoidance of empty property rates over the course of the first year of the reforms. The information will be based on the informed judgment of individual officers and is being gathered as a broad indicator of the scale of possible avoidance activity and not a detailed survey. There is no suggestion the activity in question is unlawful and we will set out in an appropriate form our general findings in due course.

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will consider removing business rate charges from empty properties; and if she will make a statement. [230981]

John Healey: Government have no current plans to reverse the changes to empty property rate relief introduced
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from 1 April 2008. However, as with all taxes, we will keep the position under review. Decisions on taxes are a matter for the Chancellor.

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether empty properties will be liable for (a) supplementary business rates and (b) business improvement districts’ levy. [231018]

John Healey: It is for those developing BID proposals to decide whether empty properties should be liable to pay the BID levy. Primary legislation is needed to give effect to the Government’s proposals for Business Rate Supplements set out in “Business rate supplements: a White Paper”, published in October 2007. The Government’s consultation paper “Preparing Britain for the Future—the Draft Legislative Programme 2008-09” included the Business Rate Supplements Bill in its plans for legislation in next year’s parliamentary Session. The Government are consulting on technical issues before finalising detailed arrangements.

Fire Services: Pensions

Paul Rowen: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many individuals belong to the (a) new and (b) old Fire Service Pension Scheme. [232834]

Mr. Khan: The Firefighters' Pension Schemes are administered by English fire and rescue authorities and, on the basis of returns from authorities, in 2007-08 there were 29,000 active and 35,000 pensioner members of the 1992 Firefighters' Pension Scheme and 5,700 active members of the 2006 scheme, with no pensioner members.

Government Offices For The Regions

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will place in the Library a copy of the Government Offices for the Regions Network corporate plan. [229569]

Mr. Khan: I can confirm that a copy of the network corporate plan 2008-11 for the Government office network has been placed in the Library of the House.


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